The chariot dog, the Dalmatian

Since the movie about the 101 Dalmatians, this spectacular spotted dog has gained popularity. However, the story of the Dalmatian goes beyond that of the film. It is also known as a “wagon dog” or a “fire station dog”. Before the “horseless carriage,” horses were used to pull fire trucks, and the dog became a common sight at US Fire Stations. The dog was used as a protector of the carriage, trained to run under the wheels and protect the horses by keeping other dogs on the farm at bay. The Dalmatian is a complete guardian and protective dog and has also been used as a hunter.

The Dalmatian is an easy-care breed, a simple cleaning of the coat will keep it clean. His white coat with many spots is spectacular in appearance. The puppies are born all white and little by little as they age the spots begin to appear. The coat has short, stiff hairs that shed throughout the year, so rubbing them vigorously with a towel several times a week will help loosen the hairs and prevent them from falling on furniture. The breed standard describes the coat very specifically: “white should be visible on the ears” and “there should be only black or only liver spots”, not a combination of the two. In the United States, blue eyes are acceptable, but European and English standards call for black or brown eyes.

He is generally healthy, but the breed has a hereditary trait of deafness. The Dalmatian is also a breed that is known to have some skin problems associated with allergies. There is little hip dysplasia in the breed, but as with all larger dogs, an X-ray is necessary to rule it out.

This dog’s temperament is stable but protective. You do not do well with children unless you are exposed to them early on. He is smart and requires a job to be at his best, therefore obedience training is a great option if you have one of these dogs in an urban setting. Getting plenty of exercise is the key. Runners are excellent owners for Dalmatians, as they adapt very well to jogging with their owner and protect it from stray dogs. It is the preferred stable dog in equestrian establishments.

Since the movie, the Dalmatian has become a generally popular dog, which is not always the best for any breed. It has been overproduced by breeders who have bred these dogs for the lure of the dollar rather than the quality of the breed. This often leads to many of these puppies showing up in pet stores. People buy on impulse, having no idea that what they are really going to end up with is a protective dog, needing a lot of exercise and all the usual training and grooming that is always necessary for a family pet. As is usual when this happens, there are several Dalmatians who have ended up in shelters. Fortunately, the National Club has an active “rescue” group that can be located by visiting the pages of the AKC website.

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